An aspiring author must prepare three things prior to establishing contact with publishers: identify the relevant genre publishers, organize collected data, and craft a solid book proposal.
Identify Relevant Genre Publishers
Identifying publishers for any particular genre is pretty straightforward. For example, a search for books in your genre at an online bookstore such as amazon.com is an effective use of time as it can help generate a long list of publisher names. Specific subject, topic, and title searches might yield better results. Pacing the aisles that shelve your genre at a physical bookstore and the local library, though laborious, is a time-proven research method. Google is also a great source for information. Querying local and online writers’ groups can have a positive outcome as well.
The next step is to organize the collected information. Being organized is critical to success. It’ll help to stay focused, reducing the chances of error. Information organizing can run the gamut from simple to intricate; simple as in tabulating data into an Excel spreadsheet for tracking purposes, to intricate as in designing a database program to manipulate data (for what purpose I don’t know).
I started an Excel spreadsheet that included the publisher name and website. It later expanded to include the column titles of: sub-genre of publisher, method of submission: electronic or regular mail, motto/mission of publishing house, submission guidelines, time taken to review submissions, date proposal was submitted, any miscellaneous comments, and outcome of submittal.
Sub-genre of Publisher: Knowing the sub-genre helps prioritize the submissions. For example, if my book was about Christianity, I would first seek a Christian press over a general non-fiction/spirituality press.
Method of Submission: The method of submission is a critical element of prioritization. Many publishers now accept submissions by email, although an overwhelming number still operate the old-fashioned way—by snail mail. It’s prudent to schedule all electronic submittals first as it cuts down the cost of printing the proposal/manuscript as well as the time and cost of mailing it.
Motto/Mission: Incorporating the motto/mission of the publisher in the book proposal/cover letter is a creative way to get a publisher’s attention. It allows a writer to customize every query/cover letter to the intended publisher. For example, take Pentagon Press whose motto is: “At Pentagon Press, we are guided by our vision of enlightening the world with knowledge. Therefore, we are striving to create means which can empower people through the intellectual route.” The opening paragraph of my cover letter featured their motto as thus: “Please consider my spiritual memoir, Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me. My book would be an excellent fit for your mission of publishing books that empower people through the intellectual route. Inner Pilgrimage is a comprehensive, moment-by-moment description of a life-transforming vipassana meditation retreat that I attended. A detailed book proposal and sample chapters are attached.”
Submission Guidelines: Every publishing house has its own unique manuscript submission guidelines. Proposals that deviate from the specified guidelines typically end up in the rejection pile. More on this in “Write a Winning Book Proposal-”--a future post.
Time Taken to Review Submissions: The time taken to review submissions indicates how long it typically takes for a publisher to review and provide judgment on a manuscript.
Proposal Submission Date: Recording the date proposal was submitted is useful, to determine the status of a submittal, especially when the “time taken to review submission” has lapsed.
Miscellaneous Comments: Save a column for noting any miscellaneous comments.
Outcome of Submission: The outcome of submittal column listed the many rejections that I received!
Transforming a book idea into a solid book proposal should involve the elements of originality, creativity, and relevance. As such, it is a vast and complex topic, and will be addressed separately in a future post.